The Greek Orthodox Church in Grand Forks

Since this is the Monday after Easter for my Greek Orthodox friends, I thought it was a good time to post something on the Greek Orthodox church in Grand Forks, North Dakota. One of the first things that I noticed when I got to know something about the community here in Grand Forks was the conspicuous absence of any substantial Greek population. There was no Greek church (or any kind of Orthodox congregation) and no obvious Greek names in community lore (and no Greek restaurants, businesses, or organizations). Despite the far reach of the Greek immigrant community, Grand Forks appeared to be one of the few places that did not attract a Greek population.

The agricultural economy of the region, the absence of manufactory and extractive industries, and the inhospitable climate probably could explain the absence of substantial Greek community (although one does exist in larger communities in the region like Winnipeg to the north and Duluth to the east and a church dedicated to St. Peter the Aluet serves the Greek community (as well as others) in Minot to the west.). It is worth noting, however, that the state did see Syrian, Lebanese, and Jewish communities around the turn of the century.   

Moreover, a little digging in the archives at the University of North Dakota by Daniel Sauerwein, indicated that a Greek community did exist in town, even though few traces remain. In the process of researching for a book, Daniel found a few images of the Greek church. The church was apparently moved to the corner of 4th Avenue and Walnut St. in 1958 and it functioned until 1990. 

We’re pretty sure that this is an image of the building’s interior.

GOCInterior

The building itself was wood-framed, as one might expect, and modest in size and adornment. It is difficult to know for certain whether the Greek Orthodox community built the church new or moved into a structure built for another congregation. The absence of a steeple suggests that it might have been build for the Orthodox congregation. The church stood in the neighborhood known as Churchville and was immediately adjacent to the much more imposing United Lutheran Church and nearby the Beaux Arts (with more than a few hints of Byzantine influence) Christian Science Church. My guess is that this little church served the entire Orthodox community in the area. 

GOCExterior1

GOCExterior2

I am sure some members of the community can add to what we know about this building and it congregation (since we know next to nothing!). I have to think that some of the reason that we know so little about this church and its community is that the building has vanished.

 So, if you can add more to the story, leave a comment or hit me with a tweet. Thanks to Daniel Sauerwein for keeping his eyes peeled for information on this little community and their church! (And you’ll be hearing more about Daniel’s researches in the fall, so stay tuned!)

2 Comments

  1. DIMITRIS KONSTANTINOUDES September 20, 2015 at 5:03 am

    Greetings from Athens, Greece,
    In connection with the Greek Orthodox Church in Grand Forks, I wish to communicate to you the following:
    I had been an undergraduate and graduate student at UND for the years 1968-1974. At that time, the Greek Orthodox church congregation was comprised by :
    a) approximately 25 permanently residing Grand Forks Greek Orthodox church members
    b) approximately 10 members from the US Grand Forks military airbase
    c) by around 4 foreign students at UND (including myself) and,
    d) by around 15 permanently residing members (of Greek origin) from the city of Fargo.
    The Greek Orthodox priest was residing at the city of Minot, where the other Greek Orthodox Church was located in the State of North Dakota. The church was holding services once a month with the priest coming from Minot. Following the normal religious service, each family ( on a rotation basis) was sponsoring lunch and various cultural events held at the basement of the Church’s building. The church financial needs were provided by the Grand Forks and Fargo permanent Greek residents, with most financing and administration provided by the families of MD and Chiropractic ( sorry I don’t recall his name – however his three-store clinic was located at the University Avenue) and, Professor Georgiakas at the UND (department of ancient Greek language). Indeed your photos disclose precisely the interior of the church. It is sad to read that the Church has terminated its religious services and mission in the great city of Grand Forks.
    Best regards,
    Dimitri Konstantinoudes
    (alexkonstantinoudis@hotmail.com)

    Reply

  2. You can try contacting Fr. Oliver Herbel (you can find his contact info here http://oca.org/clergy/name/h) who resides in North Dakota and has done some research on orthodox parishes in the state. When my father was the priest in Minot in the 80’s I recall a visit from a family in Grand Forks who was Orthodox. My mother’s recollection was that by then there were only one or two families left. Hopefully Fr. Herbel can provide more information

    Reply

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